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13 Best Walking Shoes for Foot Health, from Podiatrists

The Healthy logo The Healthy 2 days ago Amy Schlinger, Charlotte Hilton Andersen
hiker feet hiking on stone trail © lzf/Getty Images hiker feet hiking on stone trail

Walking is the most popular form of exercise with more than 145 million Americans calling walks a part of their regular routine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The many benefits of walking make it no wonder: not only can regular strolls help you maintain a healthy weight, but they can also help address or prevent heart disease and high blood pressure, help manage blood sugar, strengthen your bones and muscles, and improve your overall mood. (Read Is Walking Good Exercise? Fitness Pros Explain Why It's an Ideal Workout)

The accessibility of walking is part of what makes it such a fan favorite: all you need are some shoes (plus maybe a pal, your pup, and a good podcast or playlist will make it even more pleasurable). But note: the shoes you choose can dictate the impact your walk has on your overall, long-term wellness. Says Christopher Varacallo, DO, CAQSM, FAAFP, a sports medicine physician in DuBois, Pennsylvania and former NCAA Division I women’s basketball team physician: "Starting with a nice, supportive shoe is the essential foundation to a long-lasting, injury-free exercise routine." Varacallo adds: "If your feet hurt, everything is going to hurt. I see many patients with lower back, hip, knee, and foot problems that could easily be solved with a quality shoe."

And, this doctor adds, when it comes to the needs of your feet, "Everyone is different." We spoke with podiatrists on how to choose the best walking shoes for you, based on your foot type and activity level. Here’s what these foot experts recommended for anyone looking to put some mileage on their treads.

close up of sneaker walking on trail in the woods or forest © Maryviolet/Getty Images close up of sneaker walking on trail in the woods or forest

6 points to consider for the best walking shoe

Because each person's foot and body are unique, a shoe that's good for you might not be the same for someone else. Here are the factors to consider when you're purchasing a good pair of walking shoes:

Stability

You need to feel balanced in the shoe you're walking in. "A stiff heel counter with a straight or hybrid last will help with the stability of the shoe," explains Robert Fridman, DPM, president of Division IX American College of Foot & Ankle Surgeons, and a podiatrist at Foot Associates in New York City.

Arch support

Unique to each person, your arches need to feel supported, especially as you increase your mileage. "Arch support allows the big toe joint more mobility and to support proper alignment," says Dawn Figlo, DPM, member of the American Board of Podiatric Surgery, founder of The Organic Foot, podiatric surgeon in New York City.

Size

If the shoe doesn't fit, don't buy it. This may seem like common sense, but many individuals will try to shove their foot into a shoe that's too small, either because they really like the shoe (and can't find it in the correct size), or they think the shoe will stretch out with wear. "Have your foot measured with a Brannock Device for both length and width, because sizing can be different across brands," says Miguel Cunha, DPM, founder of Gotham Footcare, leading podiatrist, foot and ankle surgeon in New York City.

Another pro tip? "I recommend always buying shoes at the end of the day, when your feet are most swollen," Cunha says. "If they feel comfortable at the end of the day, most likely they will feel comfortable throughout the day."

Breathability

A shoe could have everything you're looking for, but if it doesn't allow for ample airflow, your foot is likely to be sweaty and uncomfortable. "Look for shoes with a breathable fabric upper. That will help manage moisture and odor, too," says Dr. Fridman.

Some shoe stores will allow you to try the shoes for a certain amount of time before deciding if they work for you. Be sure to ask about this so you're able to test the breathability.

Wide toebox

Comfort is personal, especially when it comes to the width and shape of your foot. If you have wide toes, a narrow fit probably won't work for you. "A wider toe box will prevent overcrowding of the toes and decrease the influence for bunions, hammertoes, and neuromas," says Dr. Figlo.

Flex point

The flex point of a walking shoe is the point at which it bends while walking. "For optimal comfort, the flex point of the shoe should match the bending point of your foot," says Dr. Cunha. "When it doesn't align with your foot it can cause problems like arch pain or plantar fasciitis. You can check the flex point of the shoe by holding it by the heel and pressing the toe of the shoe onto the ground. The point where the shoe bends and creases is the flex point."

With all this in mind, we asked our experts to share some of their favorite walking shoes. Here's what these podiatrists consider to be the best walking shoes for foot health.

New Balance 1165v1 Fresh Foam © via amazon.com New Balance 1165v1 Fresh Foam

New Balance 1165v1 Fresh Foam

$70-98 (depending on size)

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You'll love the feel of foam cushioning in this walking shoe—and the fact that it doesn't weigh you down. The New Balance 1165v1 Fresh Foam is actually one of the lightest walking shoes on the market. "In addition to being lightweight, the shoe is made with synthetic material making it durable for long-term use," says Dr. Cunha.

Bonus: This New Balance walking shoe has removable inserts, so you can replace them with your own.

Hoka One One Bondi 6 © via amazon.com Hoka One One Bondi 6

HOKA ONE ONE Bondi 7

$240-$255 (depending on size)

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These sneakers have an incredible amount of cushioning underfoot that can withstand many, many miles walked. This is also a very stable shoe and has a built-in Meta-Rocker that allows for a smooth transition from the heel to toe with each step. In addition to being a favorite among some of our executives, Dr. Fridman weighs in on the HOKA One One Bondi 7: "It's my favorite shoe on the market and I recommend it many times a day for people who have foot issues but want to continue with their exercise protocols. It's also surprisingly light."

That's great for all of us—perhaps especially, Dr. Fridman suggests, for seniors.

Asics Gel Contend 5 Walking Shoe © via asics.com Asics Gel Contend 5 Walking Shoe

Asics Gel Contend Walker

$60

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If walking is a part of your daily routine, consider investing in this pair. "It provides a good amount of foot stabilization, and cushions well with through their AmpliFoam midsole," says Dr. Figlo. Not only is the fabric inside breathable, but the shoe also has an Ortholite sockliner that provides support, comfort, and wicks away moisture.


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Brooks Adrenaline Gts 20 © via rackroomshoes.com Brooks Adrenaline Gts 20

Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22

$140

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"GTS" in the name of this shoe stands for "go-to shoe" because it's one of the brand's most popular models. It's built with BioMoGo DNA technology designed to adapt to your foot and movement patterns, so that it can support your unique foot and stride. "I highly recommend them for people with neutral arches or low arches, as they provide great stability, and have extra padding for shock control," says Dr. Cunha. "These are slightly more expensive than other shoes, but worth the investment."

Vionic Classic Walker © via amazon.com Vionic Classic Walker

Vionic Classic Walker

$109 (depending on size)

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Brave the elements in this pair thanks to the water-resistant membrane—and when it's hot and sunny, the moisture-wicking mesh liner will help keep your feet cool and dry. "I like that this shoe has a biomechanical orthotic that also has an antibacterial top cover," says Dr. Figlo.

Translation: Your shoes are more likely to stay smelling fresh, even after lots of wear.

New Balance 990v5 © via amazon.com New Balance 990v5

New Balance 608v5

$62

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If you like the classic look of a walking sneaker, there is none more iconic than this pair from New Balance. This tried and true sneaker has retained its reputation over time (70 years strong), still offering a good amount of cushioning, stability, and support to your foot. "This shoe is durable, well-cushioned, and has a breathable upper," says Dr. Fridman. "It also has a muted look," which, he offers, is "perfect for those people who don't want 'loud' shoes."

Asics Womens Gel Quickwalk 3 © via amazon.com Asics Womens Gel Quickwalk 3

Asics Women's Gel-Venture 8

$55

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Calling all those who are heavy-footed: The rear gel cushioning in this shoe is made to absorb and reduce the shock made by your foot, for smoother, more comfortable mileage. "These shoes are heavier than others, however, they are very durable and can be worn for longer periods of time," says Dr. Cunha. "The advantage of these shoes is that they're designed for all arch-types."

Orthofeet Womens Sneaker © via amazon.com Orthofeet Womens Sneaker

Orthofeet Women's Sneaker

$140

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This shoe was created as a solution for individuals who suffer from plantar fasciitis, heel pain, or other foot issues. And, combining comfort with style, this shoe looks as good as it performs. "This shoe provides air cushioning and has a protective interior," says Dr. Figlo. "They are orthotic friendly, have deep and wide toe boxes, good arch support, and cushioned heels, too."

You have 60 days to decide if this is the right shoe for you (and if not, the brand pledges a full refund).

Altra Torin 4 © via amazon.com Altra Torin 4

ALTRA Torin 4

$130

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ALTRA built its brand on their "zero-drop" mentality, meaning that despite the amount of cushioning, all of their shoes—including this one—have balanced cushioning, so the heel and forefoot are at an equal distance from the ground. This allows the foot to be in optimal alignment. "If you're used to shoes with a higher heel drop, you need to ease into these because they are zero-drop, and may give you some Achilles tendinitis if you don't break them in slowly," says Dr. Fridman, who is a fan of the shoe. "Because of the wide toebox, it's great for people who have normal width in their heels, but need a wide forefoot due to issues like bunions or neuromas."

New Balance 928v3 Womens Walking Shoe © via amazon.com New Balance 928v3 Womens Walking Shoe

New Balance 928v3 Women's Walking Shoe

$28-$307 (depending on size)

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If you prefer a low-profile walking shoe, look no further. But don't let this shoe fool you—while it may look basic, it's anything but.

The midsole is lined with compression-molded EVA—a stretchy, rubber-like material—to cushion and support your foot, and the endurance outsole can stand the test of time. "Structurally, this style can accommodate most pedal deformities because of the wider toe box," says Dr. Figlo. "The arch support and stability allow for more comfort and less injury risk." It has a removable footbed, too.

Ryka Walking Shoe © via merchant Ryka Walking Shoe

Ryka Devotion Plus 2 Walking Shoe

$100 (depending on size)

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If you struggle with hammertoes, bunions, gout, or arthritis in your toes, then it’s critical you get a walking shoe with an extra-wide toe box to prevent worsening your condition and to avoid pain, says Sophia Solomon, DPM, a podiatrist and foot and ankle surgeon at Manhattan Specialty Care in New York City. These Ryka Devotion Plus 2 walking shoes get high marks for comfort and cushioning, and they are designed with a roomier toe box compared to other women’s shoes.

Sketchers Walking Shoe © via merchant Sketchers Walking Shoe

Skechers Go Walk Joy Walking Shoe

$50

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The best walking shoe is the one you’ll wear often, says Dr. Solomon. These Skechers check the boxes for comfort, durability, affordability, and fit.

The slip-on style can be helpful to people with conditions that make it difficult to bend over or tie laces, she says. Plus, their casual look doesn’t scream “workout shoe”—so they may pair well even on occasions when you step out of your activewear.

Power Step Insoles © via merchant Power Step Insoles

Powerstep Insoles

$40

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Can’t find the perfect walking shoe? Make your own! “A secret for healthy feet is to customize your favorite shoe with an insole,” says Dr. Solomon. And, she suggests, you don’t need pricey custom orthotic inserts—technology these days allows for a custom fit with off-the-shelf products.

Her favorites? Powerstep adjustable insoles. (New Balance insoles, she says, are another winner.)

Get walking wisdom and so much more from The Healthy @Reader’s Digest newsletter. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram, and keep reading:

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